Benjamin Millepied: ‘Black Swan’ Choreographer Named Director of Paris Opera Ballet

Mr. Natalie Portman is set to take the reins at one of the world's oldest ballet companies.

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Natalie Portman and Benjamin Millepied arrive at the 2012 Vanity Fair Oscar Party

Benjamin Millepied, choreographer and former ballet dancer, has been named the new Director of Dance at the world renowned Paris Opera Ballet. Millepied, 35, who is French but has lived in the States since the age of 16, is probably better known as Mr. Natalie Portman — whom he married after working with her on her Oscar-winning role in the 2010 film Black Swan.

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“This is an unexpected honor, a long-held dream,” Millepied exclaimed to a room full of journalists at the Palais Garnier in the French capital, following the offer from the Paris Opera Ballet. “I am passionate about ballet, I want to see that technique being used and evolving,” he told the New York Times. He described his aim to create a framework that would help encourage up-and-coming choreographers. “Artists study drawing; musicians compositions; only choreographers are left alone to learn their craft,” he explained.

The Paris Opera Ballet is the oldest ballet company in the world, with origins dating back to the 17th century in the court of Louis XIV. “To be polite, we call ourselves ‘one of’ the best companies in the world,” the general director Nicolas Joel recently said, according to the Times. “We are the best company in the world.”

Millepied, who came to New York as a teenager to attend the School of American Ballet and joined the New York City Ballet in 1995, seems to lean more towards contemporary movement than traditional ballet. And with no official ties to the Paris Opera Ballet, his appointment as dance director has been regarded as something of a coup, notes the Washington Post.

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Stephane Lissner, the Paris Opera Ballet’s incoming general director, said that it all that mattered was Millepied’s vision, raccording toeports the New York Times. Lissner met with nine candidates but said that he discovered a lively artistic rapport with Millepied and an interest in a closer collaboration between the opera and dance departments. However, according to Wendy Perron, editor of Dance Magazine in New York, it may take some time for the young French choreographer to grow accustomed to the historical traditions of this famous Ballet Company. “I think it’s going to be hard for him to deal with the hierarchy that’s there,” she told the Guardian. “He has to find his own way between contemporary innovations and the traditions there.”

Benjamin Millepied will take over from the current Director of Dance, Brigitte Lefevre, when she retires in October 2014. It remains unclear whether Portman and the couple’s son Aleph will join her husband in Paris or remain in Los Angeles, where the family is currently based.